Wax Pastels Vs Oil Pastels – Which Are Better For Everyday Artists?

I’ve found after of years of working with wax pastels and oil pastels, that there are many similarities between them.

But there are also several differences which makes them both unique and suitable for specific styles of art.

So when it comes to wax pastels vs oil pastels what are are we comparing?

Wax pastels (or crayons as they’re commonly called) tend to be:

  • low-quality
  • inexpensive aimed at non professional artists and children

While oil pastels vary in their quality levels. (Unless of course you purchase some high end brands of wax pastels as I will show below).

  • Wax pastels may be easier to access and clean up after their use
  • oil pastels are smoother and allow for greater texturizing and blending.
  • Oil pastels are aimed at more experienced artists and are basically compressed oil pigments, the same ones used in oil paints.

Which ones are better for you depends on your art style and what effects you wish to achieve.

If you want something that behaves and looks more like oil paint then try oil pastels, these can also be manipulated with your hands to smudge, blend and smear as needed.

If you want something that has more texture and harder to mix but giving a more unique effect then wax crayons are the way to go.

The cool thing about wax crayons is that you can melt and drip them for some more modern effects.

Remember these are not like your chalk pastels, chalk pastels are a different type of medium compared to wax or oil pastels.

It’s important to learn about the various ways in which these supplies are alike and different before you purchase them for your own artwork. 

So if you want to know a little more, start reading below and see which ones are better for you.

What Are the Ingredients of Wax Pastels vs Oil Pastels? 

Wax crayons are made by mixing wax and color pigment. Usually this will be paraffin wax, considered to be a binder that holds pigment together.

You can get crayons of various colors that are made using different non-toxic pigments. The manufacturer might decide to put in a small amount of additives so that the crayons are harder. 

Some brands of wax crayons aimed at children will use beeswax as the binder as it is deemed safer in the event of some being eaten.

Oil pastels are created by combining chalk, a binder, and color pigment.

You can get soft pastels that have a small amount of binder in them, while the hard ones have a large amount of this binder.

They can make lighter shades of a color by putting additional chalk into this mixture.  

While pastels once were made with gum tragacanth or gum arabic as a binder, today the binder most commonly is going to be methyl cellulose.

You’re typically going to find that oil pastels have higher quality pigments in them than wax ones.  Below are some high quality oil pastels.

The Caran D’Ache wax pastels below are probably the most expensive ones you will ever come across and these are aimed at higher end artists as they use high end pigments and wax binder.

Caran D'Ache wax pastels
Caran D’Ache wax pastels

These will not look, feel or behave like the beeswax crayons. They will feel like a high quality medium.

Are Wax Pastels Safer? 

Crayons usually are designed to be non-toxic. This means that they are quite safe for children to use on a regular basis.

Most older children are able to use these without parent/guardian supervision.

Oil pastels are considered to be a safe medium for general use.

The difficult thing is that some of these are manufactured with toxic pigments since they’re meant for older artists to pick up and use.

You can feel ill if you breathe in the dust that’s produced as you draw with them or if you ingest these pastels in their concentrated form.

Oil pastels are totally safe if you use them as they’re intended to be used. 

Which of These Are Easier to Use? 

Crayons are abundantly available in many places. You can purchase them with ease and they can be cleaned up without a problem. 

Even though this is the case, oil pastels tend to be easier to use if you plan on making high-quality artwork.

You can lay down several colors at once, making it easier to color in large spaces with rich lights and darks.

You can use these quality pastels in order to blend and texturize your work due to the fact that they provide you with a buttery smooth texture.

Though you are likely to get a little messy by using oil pastels, it’s well worthwhile when you see your results. 

Can You Melt Oil Pastels? 

Wax pastels can be really fun when you do different activities with them.

This includes making melted crayon art by heating the crayons with a heat gun or hair dryer so that you can melt them on a canvas.

You aren’t going to get the same effect you’d have with your drawings and paintings, but it definitely should be a good time. 

Oil pastels have pigments in them that you should not ingest or inhale, so you shouldn’t melt these on purpose.

Melting them releases fumes because of the added oil, and this tends to irritate your skin.

What Are the Differences in Vibrancy? 

When you’re using crayons, the color variation is more subtle.

They just plain aren’t going to be as vibrant when you’re trying to get different tones of the same color. 

Oil pastels are more vibrant and colors next to each other retain their clarity.

People usually like them more for this reason, and since the effect is incredibly similar to using oil paint.

Also, oil pastels tend to be permanent and water-resistant. 

No matter which of these great supplies you choose, you’re in for a wonderful surprise with wax pastels vs oil pastels.

They’re sure to be important among all your artistic tools.

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